John Major accuses Tories of 'sheer folly' after Lord Heseltine suspended for backing Lib Dems
Sir John Major has accused the Conservatives of "sheer folly" after the party suspended Tory grandee Lord Heseltine for backing the Liberal Democrats.
The former Prime Minister hit out at "blinkered people" in his own party for removing the Tory whip from Lord Heseltine, who had accused the Conservatives of becoming "infected with the virus of extremism" and said he could not vote for them at the European elections.
A Conservative spokesman had said the ex-Cabinet minister's comments were "not compatible with taking the Tory whip".
But, in a letter to The Times, Sir John said the "sheer folly of suspending Michael Heseltine from the Conservative whip defies both logic and belief".
He added: "Michael has served the Conservative Party loyally and well for more than 40 years - in good days and bad.
"At a time of growing cynicism in politics, his convictions - his Conservative convictions - have remained solid, constant and true. Millions of Conservatives - myself included - share those convictions."
The former Tory leader warned his party that withdrawing the whip from Lord Heseltine represented "an over-reaction" that could encourage "many moderate Conservatives" to follow the peer's example.
And he asked: "Who are these blinkered people who have suspended the whip from a lifelong servant of the party?
"Moreover, a servant who has contributed to the social and economic welfare of our country on a scale that his critics neither can — nor will — ever match.
"I am not the only Conservative who will be dismayed by this decision, which highlights yet again how far our party is moving away from the compassionate and moderate One Nation policies that have enabled the Conservatives to dominate politics for so long. If the views of the Michael Heseltines of our party are no longer tolerated within it, then our party has truly lost its way."
The intervention from Sir John came as a Tory peer appointed by David Cameron also revealed that he will vote for the Liberal Democrats in the European elections.
Lord Cooper, who served as David Cameron's director of strategy during the coalition government and was made a Conservative peer in 2014, vowed to do "what is best for the country" and support the pro-second referendum party.
"I think the party is going to plunge into oblivion if it continues on the path of trying to out-Brexit the Brexit Party," he told The Times.
"I think the right thing to do in this election is to vote for the party that believes in a referendum and giving a chance to look again at the whole question."